The Byzantine Empire experienced a disastrous civil war and an equally destructive earthquake during the mid-1300s. These two events contributed to the fall of Thrace to the Ottomans and gave them the first Turkish domain in Europe between 1354 and 1357 where it is recorded on the Biblical Timeline with World History. The Ottoman Empire steadily advanced into Europe in the years that followed. Its borders swept past the Balkans and even reached beyond Budapest in Hungary at its height in the fifteenth century.
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New Emperor, Old Problems
On the 10th of December 1354, the Byzantine Emperor John VI Kantakouzenos left his throne in disgrace to live a quiet life as a monk. The Turks led by Orhan’s son, Suleyman Pasha, had occupied a great part of the Gallipoli Peninsula after a major earthquake shattered its cities. The displaced Greeks asked the emperor for help, but John VI knew any appeal to Orhan would be useless. He abdicated instead and left the throne to his rebellious co-emperor John V Palaiologos.
Before the earthquake, John V had waged a civil war against his co-emperor in a bid to wrest the throne away from him. He finally got what he wanted in 1354 after John VI’s abdication. There was no victory for John V as the “empire” he received was poor, powerless, and swarmed by Turks who were eager to migrate westward. In his desperation, the new emperor sent a letter to Pope Innocent VI requesting soldiers and warships. In exchange for the Pope’s help, he promised to convert to Catholicism and to dissolve the Orthodox Church. He also sent his son Manuel to the Pope in Avignon as an insurance.
Pope Innocent VI could do something about John V’s desire to convert to Catholicism. There was, however, little that he could do about the emperor’s need for soldiers. The Pope requested some soldiers to the rulers of Genoa, Venice, and Cyprus but none of his letters were answered.
Meanwhile, Suleyman Pasha had asked for more Turkish soldiers and civilians to come over and occupy Thrace. They drove out Arab nomads from a place called Karasi and resettled them in Rumelia (Bulgaria and Turkish Thrace). It was said that these new residents arrived every day on the shores of Thrace in 1357.
The year 1357 was not a good one for the Ottoman bey. His son Khalil was kidnapped by Phocaean pirates, while his favorite son Suleyman Pasha also died in the same year. These events pushed Orhan to come to terms with John V, and temporarily stop the resettlement of and expansion in Thrace. Prince Khalil was rescued in 1358. John V immediately arranged his engagement to his daughter, Irene. Unfortunately, this plan was bound to fail as Khalil died the following year. The fierce Prince Murad soon replaced his brother as commander of the Turkish army in Thrace.
Picture By Henri Segur – Own work, Public Domain, Link
Fleet, Kate. The New Cambridge History of Islam: The Western Islamic World, Eleventh to Eighteenth Centuries. Edited by Maribel Fierro. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Setton, Kenneth M., Harry W. Hazard, and Norman P. Zacour, eds. A History of the Crusades: The Impact of the Crusades on Europe. Vol. VI. Univ of Wisconsin Press, 1990.
Shepard, Jonathan. The Cambridge History of the Byzantine Empire C. 500-1492. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Uyar, Mesut, and Edward J. Erickson. A Military History of the Ottomans: From Osman to Atatürk. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Security International/ABC-CLIO, 2009.
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